New Dems make their case for council seats

Duo cite previous service to the community as valuable experience

By libby kesil
Staff Writer

New Dems make their
case for council seats
By libby kesil
Staff Writer

John CurleyJohn Curley

RED BANK — For the first time in a decade, both of the Democratic Party’s candidates for Borough Council are newcomers.

John Curley, 49, of Manor Drive and Alan Soden, 50, of Herbert Street are seeking to fill the council seats now occupied by retiring Democrat Ivan Polonsky and first-term Republican Jennifer Beck.

Polonsky, age 73, a three-term councilman, decided not to seek re-election. Beck, 35, of McLaren Street is running against Curley and Soden with Michael Tolan, 33, of Spring Street as her running mate.

Last week Curley and Soden appeared with the Republicans at the West Side Community Group’s sixth annual Candidates Night to discuss the issues in the campaign.

Alan SodenAlan Soden

Curley has served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Human Relations Committee. He graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a bachelor of arts in history and government.

He also is a member at the West Side Community Group.

Soden, 50, a lifelong resident of the borough’s west side, is a 29-year veteran of the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department, and has served as fire chief as well as on the Red Bank Fire Prevention Bureau.

Curley said his position on the Zoning Board has allowed him to fight overdevelopment and ensure that the redevelopment that does take place does not compromise the integrity of the neighborhoods.

Soden emphasized his deep roots in the borough and the time he has spent in service to the community.

Curley likewise noted his longtime association with the borough. While he grew up in Shrewsbury, he has lived in Red Bank since 1982. His father grew up in the borough on Elm Place, where Curley’s grandparents lived for many years.

"My background goes back approximately 100 years in the borough of Red Bank," said Curley.

Curley said he wants the borough to remain a community of neighborhoods. He cited his successful fight on the Zoning Board against an assisted living facility on Leighton Avenue.

When asked what the candidates are going to do about property taxes, Soden put it simply.

"If you want to cut taxes, you have to cut services," he said.

Beck suggested ideas such as cutting the fleet of borough vehicles, and handing the Eisner Library over to the county, which could potentially cut the borough’s expenses to support the library in half. She said such a move would save a few cents off the tax rate. The municipal portion of borough property taxes is 67 cents.

Curley disagreed with Beck’s assessment of the savings available by joining the county library system.

"I am not in favor of giving up our borough library," he said. "It has been there a long time. The Eisner family was very, very kind. My grandmother worked in the Eisner factory and made uniforms in that factory in WWI and WWII, and I will not slap the Eisners in the face. I believe that we are the designated hub for the state of New Jersey and it is important for us to maintain our library system."

Beck explained that if the borough decided to join the county library system, it would still have control of the property and plenty of influence over its operation.

Curley defended his position.

"My concern would be our agreement with the Eisner family and potential litigation. I would be concerned about ending up in Superior Court in Freehold. I say stay the hell out of court. It gets damn expensive."

Curley explained cutting expenses on the municipal level would make a minimal difference and that the adjustments really needed to be made at the state level.

"We are really responsible here in the council for 23 percent of the overall property tax dollars. Hopefully the state legislature will come up with a new way of funding public schools. Fifty-seven percent of our tax dollars goes to the public schools.

"I have to praise our present mayor and administration because our legal council Richard O’Connor has worked a situation out with Riverview Medical Center, which will be pumping $200,000 back in through taxes," he continued. "I have to congratulate Councilman R.J. Bifani. We also have cut garbage collection to the downtown and that is supposedly going to save us $300,000 to $400,000 right there."

Acknowledging the need to address escalating tensions between cultural groups, especially over the issue of affordable and available housing in the borough, Curley credited his involvement in and the work of the Human Relations Committee with easing the strain between the groups.

"The Human Relations Committee was formed to fight any bias incident or any type of hate or discriminatory situation that transpires within this community," said Curley. "I have spoken at our churches and our synagogues and civic groups and our schools and we are making tremendous headway. I’ve also spoken in the West Side Community Room."

Democratic Mayor Edward J. McKenna is running unopposed for his fourth term. He attributed the 12 years of growth and prosperity in Red Bank under his watch to an administration and council that work together.

"We’ve been so successful because we have been a team, not by voting no to issues all the time," continued McKenna. "Elect two new members to the team so that we can move forward."